A Look at The Gifted- Season 1, Episode 11: “3 x 1”

Welcome back to The Gifted.  After that holiday break, we’re back with another installment before we head into another two week break as we continue towards the season finale.  But we’ll get to that later.  For now, this is “3 x 1.”

The episode begins with a flashback two years ago in Athens, Georgia as Clarice exits a movie theater with a friend.  They soon find themselves surrounded by a group of people wearing shirts with crosses on them.  These are, as Blink refers to them, The Purifiers.  They’re aware of Clarice’s mutant powers and demand to know if her companion is a mutant, but he claims to be human.

Clarice asks how any of the people can be okay with this, but her friend tells her to flee.  With her car soon torched by the Purifiers, she runs off and prepares a portal…

In the present, the Stepford Cuckoos speak with an associate, William, played by Ray Campbell, about the incident at Trask Industries.  He’s still trying to rebuild the Hellfire Club, but the Cuckoos’ actions are making that difficult.

Associates of William and the Cuckoos want them to act quickly, as the Hound program is running stronger than ever, but they don’t have the firepower right now.  And they can’t help from where they got it before.  The mutant underground is still an option, as some may be grateful that the sisters helped save their lives.

Then, we get two funerals.  First off, Jace Turner delivers the eulogy for Agent Weeks while also telling the story of Lucifer.  As an angel, he gained powers and soon wanted to rule over Heaven, and for that, he was cast out of paradise.  There are people among the humans who have powers.  They ask for understanding and tolerance, but Jace is done tolerating evil.  He vows to bring the mutants to justice.

The mutants bid farewell to Dreamer, albeit without a body to bury. Marcos acknowledges that humans will point to the differences among mutants, but in the end, mutants die and grieve just as humans do.  And Dreamer will not be forgotten.

When everyone returns to the underground, Clarice asks a distraught John how he’s holding up and offers any help, given what Dreamer meant to him.  John’s priority is taking down the Hound program, but he knows that the mutants will be divided on what to do about Esme, given how some see her actions as beneficial.  Right now, John can’t lose anyone else.

The Struckers are divided as well.  While Reed and Caitlin want to head to Mexico, neither Andy nor Lauren wants to leave or talk about what happened at the lab.  But with so much tension between everyone right now, Caitlin doesn’t want the family caught in the middle.  Going to Mexico, though, isn’t running away since there are refugees, but Andy and Lauren believe they’re of more use here.

Shatter alerts everyone just as the Stepford Cuckoos enter to make their case: they need the underground’s help in taking on the expanding Hound program.  Some aren’t on board, given what Esme did, but hey, she did help save some of the mutants.  And the other plan of going to Sentinel Services wouldn’t have helped either.

Clarice rightly asks why the Cuckoos can’t do this themselves, given their abilities, but Sentinel Services knows what they look like, so they can’t go at this alone.  Make no mistake, the humans will come for them.  The Cuckoos have information on Campbell’s plans, while the underground has the muscle.  The underground won’t decide on this now, so the sisters vow to return.

Dr. Campbell joins Turner at the cemetery to discuss how Turner took the mutants from the cell to spare them from the Hound program.  Very merciful, even though it got Agent Weeks killed.  Campbell knows the program isn’t humane, but he draws parallels between his actions and those who dropped the atomic bomb during World War II.  Those people carried a great burden to end a conflict that threatened all of humanity.

The time for mercy is over, as Trask’s research has entered a new phase and Campbell wants Turner’s support.

Back at the underground, Lauren tells Andy that it’s time for their class, but Andy is well pass studying.  Lauren thinks leaving might be for the best.  Clarice didn’t tell anyone what happened in the lab, but people know something happened.

Sage did some digging into the sisters and presents what she found to John and Clarice.  As far as she knows, there are three of them: Esme, Sophie, and Phoebe, all of whom have Frost as their last name.  Think about it.  When Sophie and Phoebe were arrested, they gave their last name as Cuckoos.  Ha.

Based on the police file, they’re a kind of hive mind and are capable of limited psychic control if they’re close and the target doesn’t see it coming.  But they’re also politically connected, given that one even managed to infiltrate the campaign of Senator Montez, whom Clarice believes is a straight up Purifier.  Blink, watch your mouth!

The underground is divided right now.  Half hate the Frosts and half want their help. As for Clarice, she won’t run and hide anymore.  Good for you, Clarice.

Lorna, feeling a pain in her stomach, wants to help the sisters, though Marcos sees no good in the Cuckoos tearing the underground apart.  They should be a team, not chess pieces to be moved around on a board.  In Lorna’s mind, the sisters got the job done. If it’s a matter of survival, that’s all that should matter right now.  She soon leaves.

Marcos then finds the Struckers packing up and getting ready to leave for the Fairburn station, even though he’d like them to stay and help.  However, some of the mutants have turned on the Struckers because they talked to Jace Turner.  Marcos may trust them, but it’s not enough.

He helps them pack up and tells them what to expect on the way.  They thank each other and prepare to part ways, but they can’t depart yet because Lauren isn’t with them.

Indeed, Lauren tells Clarice that leaving wasn’t her idea, but her parents are concerned about Esme.  Lauren would rather stay, but this isn’t her decision.  Clarice, having run away before, tells Lauren that running won’t help.  At some point, she needs to take a stand.  Lauren tried that and it got Dreamer killed, but that wasn’t her fault. Clarice says that hate feeds on fear and if she runs, hate wins.  Still, Lauren leaves.

Back at Trask, Dr. Campbell shows Jace some of the test subjects.  Jace is concerned with the legality of this, but Campbell knows certain steps must be taken to win the war. Subjects so far have been limited, but Campbell has learned how to combine the mutant abilities.  He’s confident Washington will be on board after seeing the program’s potential.  More than that, he wants to test out some of the powers.  In the field.

The Struckers arrive at the Fairburn Vocational Institute and it turns out that they’re welcomed by Wes of all people, as he’s helping out with security.  Well, at least Lauren’s happy.

Later that evening, Andy is greeted by one of the sisters, who advises him to talk to his parents, but speak to then as Andrew von Strucker, not Andy.  In fact, the sister believes Andy of all people will be needed in this fight, given that he hardly needs protecting.  Even still, Andy leaves.

Over at the underground, Lorna also meets with one of the Cuckoos who still wants her help, given that she likes the idea of teaming up.  Lorna knows that the mutants hate being puppets and doesn’t believe Marcos will get over being used, not to mention the sisters being involved with the Hellfire Club.

And that’s when the sister brings up Lorna’s father.  No, not the one died in a plane crash.  Her real father who was a member and king of the Hellfire Club.  That makes Lorna royalty.  The sister asks if Lorna’s pregnancy is changing her.  If Lorna wants to protect her child, she should join the Cuckoos.  This is a war, so Lorna must ask herself what matters most.  As the sister leaves, Lorna notice a slight change in her abilities…

The next day, Lauren helps Wes out, and he knows all about what happened at the lab.  Lauren regrets not doing something, but Wes tells her that even though she can’t change the past, she can at least become stronger based on what happened.  All the bad things that happened to Wes, after all, led him to here…stacking boxes.

At the underground, Lorna, who is in a very good mood, experiments with her powers and seals the safe shut, noting that she couldn’t manipulate that much metal before and believes this is because of the baby.  She tells Marcos that she feels amazing all of a sudden, and this is much different than her past bipolar episodes.  She’s changing.  Hell, everything’s changing.

They talk with John and Clarice about how to proceed with the Frost sisters, who will be arriving soon.  Clarice and Lorna want to ally with the Cuckoos since they need allies, but Marcos still detests the Cuckoos’ tactics.  Lorna questions whether Marcos wants to cling to his principles or survive, but Marcos won’t chuck out his principles because it’s convenient.  The X-Men chose them because they don’t kill.

After all, if they wanted to kill, they would have done it already.  They have to be better than that.  They’ll take out the Hound program, but on their own terms.  Then Sage enters and tells them that, based on word from the radio, something big is about to go down.

Indeed, Hound soldiers attack the facility housing the Struckers as they’re in the middle of an argument.  Wes uses his powers to create an illusion to give them time to escape.  Though Andy wants to stand and fight, he’s quickly incapacitated.  But that’s when Lauren looks out and notices something very familiar about the mutants attacking them.

As Wes keeps the illusion up, Reed calls and updates John, who is on the way with reinforcements.

Jace and Campbell watch the standoff continue as the Hound soldiers continue their assault on the hideout.  With the right mutants, the possibilities of power combinations are endless.  And as long as the mutants think resistance will work, violence, in turn, will continue.

Not far, John senses that Sentinel Services is setting up around the building.  They hear a blast just as Clarice begins preparing a portal.

Back at the hideout, Wes can’t keep the illusion up much longer.  As Andy awakens, Clarice, John, Marcos, and Lorna enter amidst the chaos.  As the soldiers open fire, Lauren shields the others from gunfire long enough for the reinforcements to arrive and save them.  However, sonic blasts continue to throw everyone off, even sending Lorna flying just as John catches her.

Jace learns that visual contact is lost, but Turner still wants any remaining mutants.

In the woods, the others realize that there’s too many agents, some of whom have found the car.  Andy then tells everyone to head left, saying that they said it was safe.

They arrive at a clearing and run straight into the Stepford Cuckoos, who have incapacitated, not killed, the nearby guards.  Everyone heads into the vans and flees.

Turner and Campbell speak with Director Wolcott, played by Elliott Grey, about the benefits of the Hound program, which is more effective than the Sentinels. At the end of the day, people want answers instead of political correctness, and building off of the research into the Strucker family can lead to unlimited potential.

A demonstration is to be put into place and brought to Washington next week.  With the right support, this can become an international effort.

At the underground, Wes is still passed out from overexerting his powers.  Clarice is at least glad Lauren is back so they can get all the help they can get.  Andy awakens and tells his father that the sisters, not him, saved their lives.  They can’t leave with the Hounds still out there.

Marcos, Lorna, and John talk with the Cuckoos about Campbell’s program at Trask, which is only the beginning and will only get worse for the mutants.  The mutants have the power to end this and the sisters can get the others to Campbell, so it’s time for the underground to make a choice.

The Cuckoos again meet William, who has been taking calls for hours.  The Inner Circle is very unhappy with the Cuckoos’ actions, not to mention tipping off Sentinel Services. But hey, if you want to win, you have to sacrifice a few pawns.  Right now, they’re fighting for survival and the underground has to understand what they’re up against. No risk, no reward after all.  And the Struckers are hardly lost yet.

As for the mutant underground?  They’re in.

Oh, and we get a stinger with a guy talking about the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club. More on that later.

What I enjoy a lot about The Gifted is the interpersonal conflict.  As with most scenarios, more so when it comes to mutants and humans, there’s no clear solution and you’re bound to run into divisions sooner or later.  The X-Men films have touched on this for sure, but it feels a degree deeper here with the mutant underground and other various groups the show has explored.

It helps that the show has dug into a lot of aspects of X-Men lore not yet touched upon or fully explored in the movies.  In a way, The Gifted reminds me a lot of Spectacular Spider-Man and how that cartoon introduced groups like The Enforcers and other parts of Spider-Man mythology that we hadn’t seen yet either in animated form or in the films at that point.

The same is true here.  Come on. The Purifiers?  The Hounds? The Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club?  Sure, the Hellfire Club played a big role in X-Men First Class, but this show digs deeper by exploring the group’s connection to the Stepford Cuckoos- and by extension, Emma Frost- not to mention the big role that Lorna’s father played in the organization where he was a king.  But I’ll get to Lorna in a second.

It’s stuff like this that makes me enjoy these television adaptations of comic book properties, not just The Gifted, but things shows like Gotham, the DCCW shows and the Netflix MCU shows.  They can explore parts of the comic mythology that otherwise wouldn’t fit or have enough time to be developed in a big budget blockbuster.

And in this case, it makes the Hellfire Club seem like more of a shadowy organization than they were in First Class, but no less threatening.

This episode dealt a lot with the various divisions that the characters faced as they were manipulated and forced to make difficult decisions that could compromise their integrity. With the war escalating, there’s not a lot of time to deliberate and make the diplomatic decision, but that doesn’t mean, as Marcos says, throwing out your principles because it’s convenient.

That’s not to say that people like Lorna and Clarice are in the wrong.  Far from it.  They need all the allies they can get.  With the X-Men and Brotherhood gone, their resources and connections are limited.  They’re in a desperate situation that calls for desperate measures, so what option is there but trusting the Cuckoos, despite their violent actions?

The mutants in the underground have faced hatred from humans many times, and often they’ve been forced to flee in the face of danger, as was the case with Blink running from the Purifiers rather than standing her ground.  True, you can’t win every battle and there are some fights that aren’t worth fighting, but as she tells Lauren, running means that hate wins.

Sometimes you’ve gotta fall back in order to just survive the battle- never mind winning it- and biding your time in order to win the war, even if that means taking a few losses. Wes tells Lauren not to beat herself up over Dreamer’s apparent death, but to grow stronger because of it.  After all, lessons can be learned from defeat and retreat just as they can from victories.

I like how the decision to work with the Cuckoos is something that everyone has a say in, not just the mutants.  The Struckers are just as involved in this conflict, more so because of Dr. Campbell eyeing Andy and Lauren, and it makes sense that, for the sake of protecting themselves and avoiding any danger, Reed and Caitlin want to leave.

Sure, I never thought they would stay away for good or that they were abandoning the underground, but I understand why Reed and Caitlin would want to stay out of the fight at this point.  Plus, not like they were leaving on bad terms, as Marcos acknowledges the good they’ve done since arriving at the underground.

While it’s a little convenient that Wes was who they met up with, previous episodes did establish where he was going, and the Struckers were just passing through, so I can buy it.  Plus, his abilities helped buy time for the reinforcements to arrive and get them to safety.

That entire sequence was well-executed with the constant explosions rattling the building.  When Polaris went flying, I expected her to regain her composure through floating, but John catching her was a cool moment as well.  And by the way, Andy being guided through the forest by the Stepford Cuckoos felt reminiscent of X-Men Origins: Wolverine when Xavier guided Scott and the escaped mutants to his location.

And let that be the only time I reference that movie.

Turner is another instance of someone finding themselves divided.  Yes, he’s distraught over Agent Weeks’ death and wants to avenge him, but you can see on his face how conflicted he is with Dr. Campbell’s methods, even if they produce results.  His wife has already asked what he’s doing in the name of their daughter, so I imagine he’s saving face to put on a show for Campbell, but still troubled with the doctor’s work.

Him telling the story of Lucifer draws some parallels with both humans and mutants. Those certain leaders or people who wish to attain more power in order to rule are sometimes thrown out of power.  And with mutants, you have those who don’t see themselves as working with the humans, but seeking to be better than them, maybe even dominate them, thus proving the humans right.

And going back to X-Men First Class, I’m very much reminded of the philosophical debate waged by Charles and Erik throughout the movie.  While Erik believed that, in the end, they wanted the same thing, it was Charles who sadly told him that they do not, and I imagine he knew that all along.  Thus, Erik parted ways with his old friend, banished in a way, and formed his own Brotherhood of Mutants.

Also, another similarity to First Class.  The fact that Dreamer is given a memorial without a body reminded me of how the mutants in First Class couldn’t even properly bury Darwin after he’d been killed by Sebastian Shaw.  That’s maybe a stretch Reed Richards wouldn’t even make, but I couldn’t help but notice it.

All this talk of First Class makes me want to go back and rewatch it.  I probably will.

But on the subject of Erik, let’s move over to Lorna as she learns more about her father’s reputation.  Now, Emma Dumont has said before that Polaris will learn about her connection to Magneto and it seems we’re headed right for that going into the finale as she now knows of her father’s time in the Hellfire Club.

So while the films may not have touched on it, this continuity seems to firmly establish that at one point, Magneto did indeed serve as a sort of king in the Hellfire Club.  The White King, perhaps?  No idea, but it’s fun to speculate and I love that we’re getting more of Lorna’s connection to her father.

She’s more than capable of standing on her own and one thing I applaud the show for doing is not just making Lorna’s main character trait is that she’s the daughter of Magneto.  She’s more than that and The Gifted, combined with how Emma Dumont plays Polaris, has developed her into a strong leader who, based on her line of thinking, could indeed follow in her father’s footsteps.

Plus, if Magneto was indeed a king, then based on succession, Polaris could be next in line to inherit the keys to the kingdom if she ends up following in his footsteps.  Something to think about as we head into the finale.  Also, it’s always nice to have more chess symbolism, something we’ve seen many times between Charles and Erik in the X-Men films.

Now, as for that stinger.  The talk of the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club shows that their roots run not just deep, not just far, but are slowly being brought to light by individuals such as the man in the video.  Granted, his fate seems to be up in the air based on how the episode ends, but it’s nice to see the global implications of the ongoing mutant conflict outside of our main characters.

We’re headed into the season finale on the heels of another strong installment of The Gifted.  With tons of great character moments and X-Men Easter Eggs aplenty, it was a return to form after the break as the Stepford Cuckoos continue to be a thorn in everyone’s side.  Looking forward to the finale in two weeks.  See you then!

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